This is the final, and longest, post of the series. Read the first eight installments: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, and Part 8. You can download and read Daymon’s dissertation here.
Remember, Daymon has made his dissertation available for purchase in bound form here. All of the proceeds will go to the Utah Food Bank.
Brad: What we have today is a kind of case study. It’s a detailed ethnographic account which, again, we’re only going to be able to scratch the surface of in this conversation—it’s an account of the creation and writing of the priesthood and Relief Society manual, The Teachings of the Presidents of the Church, for none other than our old friend John Taylor.
Daymon: I thought this would be a nice, if perhaps ironic, way to end the dissertation, to go back to John Taylor again. Really the origin point of the whole story. And Taylor, of course, was the figure that the Fundamentalists pointed back to as well. So there’s a weird kind of mirroring or analogy between the Fundamentalists grounding their tradition in John Taylor and the seeing how Correlation is going to correlate John Taylor as a historical or biographical figure.
Brad: Not so much a historical figure, actually, as a Thinker of Eternal Truths. Or speaker of Eternal Truths.
Daymon: So the thing they end up having to wrestle with is that he was, indeed, once in the flesh and blood, and he gets, in some sense, pressed out of his historical flesh and transformed into a disembodied figure, an idea.
Brad: Now, before we get into the thick of this, tell us briefly how you came into possession of these very rich materials and documents.
Daymon: Well it’s a complicated story, a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend kind of thing, the same way I came across the Fundamentalism materials. In this case, the man who gave me the materials had attempted first to donate them to the Church archives, but was told they didn’t want them, so he let me make copies of them. So it’s sometimes through sheer serendipity that ethnography and history become possible. But in this case, what I had before me were all the meeting minutes, all the email exchanges, all the drafts of the different chapters that different members of the writing committee wrote. So the way these committees usually work, is they issue callings to, in some sense, random people, though not entirely since it’s often someone who knows somebody who works in the Curriculum Department at the Church Office Building.
Brad: So there’s some informal vetting in the sense that the individuals are believed to be trustworthy, no red flags in their files, so to speak. And it’s also important that none of them are trained professional historians or academics.
Daymon: The ideas is that the same kind of people who will be reading it will be writing it.
Brad: Trustworthy, faithful, relatively bright, rank-and-file Latter-day Saints.
Daymon: Part of the trick here is that these are all people who have been encountering Correlated materials and texts now for several decades. So the efforts of Correlation are now coming full circle, where you can now have people who can produce Correlated material without having to thoroughly regiment or oversee them. In some sense they’re just going to reproduce a version of the 72 nouns that Lee and his committee originally organized.
Brad: So in some sense a synonym for these earlier terms—trustworthy, faithful, rank-and-file—would be simply “correlated.” So correlated Mormons will produce correlated materials, a correlated manual.
Daymon: One of the key strategies of Correlation was to stick “priesthood” before everything they did, but at the same time to “discover” that correlation was already going on everywhere—of course the term “correlation” just denotes when two things are in some relationship.
Daymon: Occasionally Correlation would even describe the complimentarity of man and woman in the bedroom as a correlated relationship. And grace and works were correlated too. Any time they could string two words together in any kind of relationship of similarity or complimentarity or anything else, they would say “that is correlation.” So, of course, they manage to find correlation everywhere.
Brad: They’re not creating anything. They’re discovering and harnessing something that already exists.
Daymon: It’s not an administrative initiative, it was a Revelation calling for the discovery of something which is already there, as it were, pulled out of the ground.
Brad: But also eternal and unchanging.
Daymon: That’s right. And the eternal and unchanging aspect is really a residue of the fact that they’re dealing almost exclusively with abstract nouns. Words that don’t have, for example, any tense, which simply seem timeless, which seem to refer to things which are Platonic ideal forms, like “Faith.” But if you go and read historical texts, what “faith” means seems to change quite regularly.
Brad: So we have an anonymous committee, that is invested with the imprimatur if “The Prophet,” or more accurately the Corporation of the President of the Church.
Daymon: In their first meeting—it’s six people, men and women (though the manager is a man because it’s a priesthood calling) volunteers, they’re not paid to do this but volunteer their time and energy after receiving the calling, and it’s no small task—on the 23rd floor of the Church Office Building on a Thursday afternoon, and they’re told that not only is this calling issued by the current Church President, the current Prophet, but also that the president that they’re talking about—in this case John Taylor—will help them, inspire them, and assist them in organizing this material. And where is John Taylor going to perform this service? Well, of course, in the Mind.
Brad: This doubling serves to create a kind of generic idea or persona of “the Prophet”—a slot that can be filled in by a specific individual—you’re being supported by Gordon B. Hinckley, who’s “the Prophet” and also by John Taylor, who’s “the Prophet,” and also by Joseph Smith, who’s “the Prophet.” “The Prophet” in some sense becomes a genericized category.
Daymon: And this is part of what makes possible something like the creation of these manuals by volunteers, in a Correlated Church. So this notion that they are going to present the teachings of John Taylor has to be read through this correlated notion that the ideas of John Taylor are the same as the ideas—the abstract topics—that Harold B. Lee mapped out on this chart.
Brad: Because they’re eternal and unchanging and timeless. The same ideas animated Joseph Smith, animated John Taylor, animate God, animate Gordon B. Hinckley, animated Harold B. Lee. Lee was just the one that accessed them, collated and diagrammed them.
Daymon: So this becomes the origin story of Correlated Mormonism. These eternal, timeless, changeless terms are really “the Gospel.” And this then becomes something which anybody can discover, just as it used to be possible for anyone to learn about God just by thinking about their bodies and their day-to-day experiences. Now it becomes possible to think about God by thinking about thoughts. Abstract, timeless, eternal, unchanging principles—thoughts.
Brad: The Mind of God is accessible through your own mind, it can be mapped, the two Minds can be mapped together, conjoined.
Daymon: And there are all kinds of ritual spaces in which we enact the truth of this relationship between the mind of man and the Mind of God, and one of the most important places is in this discursive space in Priesthood and Relief Society, where we collectively encounter and go over these manuals.
Brad: We talk about these abstract principles, we testify of their eternal truth.
Daymon: And more importantly we identify and locate our own biography within the biography of John Taylor, which is really just a manifestation of this idea. So they might read a passage, and then ask “well, what does this principle mean to you?” “What is ‘faith’ to you, Brad?” These are the kinds of questions that the manuals ask the teachers to ask.
Brad: So who you are on the inside becomes aligned and identified with who John Taylor is represented as having been on the inside through the text.
Daymon: So there’s this concentric diagram of people, that has its origins in these abstract words, which enables elaborate speculations or reflections on your self. Sometimes these questions will ask you to think about a previous time in which you’ve thought about this or that abstract noun. Or think about why God might desire this. So there’s this nested structure, grounded in abstract nouns and verbs of thinking—what does God think or want, rather than what does God say, what does He command.
Brad: They’re not verbs of speaking, they’re verbs of thinking.
Daymon: So you’ll find in the manuals a great deal of embedded verbs of thinking: ponder what you desired when you thought about wanting this thing. And then think about why God would want that to happen. These are all investigations of this nested structure in the Mind. So the question then becomes, how does this become possible as a sort of regulating practice in the Correlated Church, and this all goes back to the committees that writ these manuals.
Brad: One of the Correlation managers you spoke with furnished a quote, which literally, and not without irony, could have been written by Michele Foucault. He said “Correlation begins within the mind of the originator.” Breathtaking, really. Correlation is not a process that is forced upon the people who have been called to write the manual. Correlation is something which is presumed to pre-exist in their minds, in their Mind. It will be a correlated manual by virtue of Correlation already being present in their minds.
Daymon: And that notion makes possible and rationalizes the entire productive apparatus that Lee instituted, grounded in these abstract terms which he organized into this standardized taxonomy. Of course everyone has “faith” or “obedience” or “self-mastery” in their minds. They already exist, and we just have to put them into the proper, hierarchical relationship. This is what Correlation was supposed to be doing.
Brad: And making the new taxonomy of abstract principles legible to everybody.
Daymon: So back to the John Taylor committee, they met every week. The first day that they met they were told to brainstorm ideas.
Brad: Now this is as fascinating as it is absolutely critical and central to Correlation. On the one hand they’re told that they’ll have virtually unfettered access to every record, everything that John Taylor’s ever written or spoken and had recorded. It’s going to be digitized and therefore searchable. That’s also key—it’s going to be searchable by term, so the texts are broken down according to patterns that make them legible and processable by computers. So you just scour the texts for particular words, with the presumption that the meaning of the words is both transparent as well as uniform across time and space, including its being identical with the meanings that Correlation now ascribes to the word. But back to the key point here, all this unlimited access and searchability takes place within an interesting creative context: they’re told to come up with the topics, the chapter titles, the ideas we’ll learn about from Taylor, prior to actually reading his words. There’s even a little resistance here. Someone says “well, shouldn’t we read these documents before we settle on chapter titles?” So rather than going and reading John Taylor, looking at the kinds of things he actually said, the kinds of things he was interested in talking about, and then, based upon a careful reading of John Taylor’s teachings, putting together a list of chapters—instead of this, they’re told, before you actually go to John Taylor, you’re going to put together a list of chapter topics, with each chapter title being an abstract noun or noun-phrase, checked against Lee’s magic list. You’re going to decide in advance what Taylor is going to teach us about, since you already know anyway.
Daymon: They’re told this process is absolutely necessary for them to basically be able to manage all of the material. So before they even so much as look at anything by John Taylor, they’ve already come up with 25 or so words.
Brad: The categories have to be in place already, and they have to be anchored to abstract terms.
Daymon: This is very important for the committee’s work, because there’s a great deal of overlap between all the word lists that were submitted by each of the members. Why is that the case? Because these are the same terms that go back to Lee’s cards, which he turned into a curriculum worksheet decades before, and became the foundation for all correlated curricula.
Brad: These things are already in the tables of contents of all the previous iterations of these Church President manuals, they’re in the Topical Guide.
Daymon: So these become the standardized and regulated words according to which Taylor is going to be searched, understood, made legible. The surveillance structure for history is constructed around these Correlated terms.
Brad: The lens for encountering and reading Taylor is a hierarchical diagram of abstract terms, categories of eternal thought, so to speak.
Daymon: So they come up with their lists, they brainstorm and talk about them. They get rid of a few suggestions like “Patriarchal Order,” they revise some of the words to make them ring more nicely to the modern Mormon ear, like changing “progression toward Godhood” to “progress toward Exaltation,” and “Cooperation” becomes “Self-Reliance.” They submit this list to the heads of the Correlation Department, who then reorganize it and make suggestions for revision, and perhaps more importantly, they’re constantly trying to orient their list toward what is called the “Curriculum Planning Worksheet” (sample excerpt).
Brad: This is a multi-page worksheet that organizes terms hierarchically, and it’s a standardized reproduction of the notecard diagram that Lee and his original committee constructed on the wall of his office. It’s a series of pages in which all of these terms are organized and arranged hierarchically.
Daymon: Right. The CPW contains, basically, what everybody should already know, and, effectively, the only things that anyone really even needs to know. So they go over the chapter list that they’ve devised, they don’t actually have any content yet, and they compare it with the categories listed on the Curriculum Planning Worksheet. Now the categories on the CPW are almost exclusively abstract nouns and noun phrases.
Brad: Nested hierarchically.
Daymon: So they’ll be, like, 22.214.171.124—categories that are numerically arranged.
Brad: One term will fall under the head of another term, under the head of another, etc.
Daymon: And of course this is a perfectly reasonable and normal way for these things to be done, but, on the other hand, it’s certainly not the kind of thing you would have found—it wouldn’t really have even been thinkable—in the 19th Century. Not because people weren’t capable of doing it, but because it wouldn’t have made any sense. In this case, you have two categories. The first is abstract nouns—faith, obedience, love, etc. The second is these phrases which are in a kind of timeless grammatical structure: “Planning family finances.” There’s no grammatical subject here, it’s an unmarked tense and a continuous aspect. The “-ing” here makes it seem like “planning family finances” is something that is always done.
Brad: It’s ongoing and eternal.
Daymon: So the terms themselves, linguistically and syntactically, refer to a timeless and eternal entity.
Brad: I don’t know that we want to go into too much fine-grained analysis of the manual’s content—people can read the dissertation chapters where you, for example, provide a really fascinating discussion on the treatment of the term “priesthood” in the manual.
Daymon: To get there, it’s really important to understand how they actually go about putting these texts together. So after they’ve received approval for the chapter titles, they all sign up and each person has a few chapters they will write individually. So they do a search in the digital database for whatever term they’re supposed to be writing about. And they match it up and make sure that they’ve got the proper coverage from the CPW, so that they’re not duplicating too much material from, say, the Brigham Young or Harold B. Lee manuals. And so if their term is “priesthood” they’re going to search all the electronic texts for this word. And then they’ll read everything that comes up. So this might be a nice way to organize information in an index or on the Web, but it’s not a particularly good way to write history. Unless, that is, you view history as a reflection of the Mind of God and the Order of the Universe.
Brad: And they make absolutely clear at the outset of the writing process that they’re not interested in history, in Taylor’s personal history, or in any kind of historical context for any of the writings or quotations that are going to be included. Maybe there’ll be a few tiny, decontextualized vignettes that are meant to permit some identification of the abstract principle in question with some moment in his life, but they don’t want any historical background on what was going on in the wider Church when he said this.
Daymon: We’re not doing “history” we’re doing “doctrines.” And yet even this distinction between doctrine and history wouldn’t really have made sense to someone like Taylor. But the vignettes from the life of John Taylor were explicitly designed to prepare the mind of the reader for the principle being taught.
Brad: And the principle is itself eternal. It’s not dependent on any historical context, it can’t be situated historical, because these principles, these terms, transcend history.
Daymon: So the terms are used to decontextualize literally everything. Every text is stripped out of its context, because all you’re looking for is an Eternal Principle. And you just locate that Principle inside the Mind of John Taylor, which can be evidenced in a little scene of him at home with his family, or on the farm, or whatever. So they turn this virtual biography of Taylor as an expression of an Eternal Principle, which is a kind of metaphor for what the reader is supposed to be doing while reading.
Brad: We are supposed to become ourselves expressions of the selfsame Principle.
Daymon: So here’s a question from Chapter 2, from the “suggestions for further study” portion, a question the instructor is supposed to ask during the lesson:
How can it help you to know the Gospel is eternal and unchangeable? How does this knowledge influence your beliefs and the decisions you make?
Notice how embedded these things are in the Mind. You’ve got here knowledge, beliefs, decisions you make.
What have you done to receive a testimony of the Gospel? What experiences have strengthened your testimony?
And this is the important one, the last question:
What can we do to ensure that the principles of the Gospel continue to abide in us?
Brad: Things that are abstract, that exist independently of us, independently of agents of any kind, or definitions for that matter. They’re just out there. But if we align ourselves properly, they can “abide” within us in the same way that they can abide in Joseph Smith or John Taylor or Thomas Monson or Adam or Jesus or Moses or Abraham or your Elder’s Quorum instructor.
Daymon: And so when you respond to this question in class, of course you’re supposed to ideally display some aspect of your personal biography as it aligns with this Principle and demonstrates that this abstract idea abides in you.
Brad: It’s an act of speaking that is both scripted and unscripted at the same time. A performance that is spontaneous but whose limits are also tightly circumscribed.
Daymon: So it seems like you just did discover this, even though you also realize that it was already always there. You are correlated, in the sense that you are both legible and manageable to the Correlated Church. Going back to the term “priesthood”, there really are some interesting things going on here in terms of priesthood orders and order of the priesthood that undergo rearrangement within the John Taylor manual. They make subtle changes to the text that description that Taylor initially gave for priesthood orders.
Brad: Usually, today, when we say “order of the priesthood” we mean something like that authoritative flow chart. Who presides over whom, in what order? “Order” of the priesthood means priesthood hierarchy, an organizational diagram in which every person and every office fits into a slot. Everybody has a proper place, there is a proper order. A vertically integrated Order of the Priesthood.
Daymon: You’ve got Deacons and Teachers and Priests and Elders and High Priests, etc. We could all replicate this thing.
Brad: And it’s all grounded in the notion of presiding and being presided over.
Daymon: And this formulation gets written into the text of John Taylor in the two chapters on priesthood. But if you read John Taylor’s original writings on this stuff—most of these texts were originally published in the Journal of Discourses, though they explicitly change the citations from the JD to the Deseret News, because of course they don’t want people actually going to the Journal of Discourses—and you don’t read it through a lens of a correlated notion of priesthood, as a hierarchical order of men, you find that Taylor has some rather different descriptions of priesthood order. Among them, the old notion of order as decree, the orders of the priesthood being the things that are decreed by the priesthood.
Brad: The orders, demands, wishes of God or of a group of priests.
Daymon: Right. So Taylor describes the priesthood being organized according to the order of God, he’s not saying that the Order of God is replicated or mirrored in the organization of an administrative hierarchy, what he’s saying is that there’s a decree from God which has organized these priesthood offices. Taylor almost never uses terms that we use today with regularity, like “priesthood authority.” Other renderings of “order” that get read through a correlated lens in the manual and, therefore, completely missed—again, because put together by the very people who will be reading them, so there’s a seamless correlation, you might say, in terms of this new notion of priesthood that gets written onto history. He talks about “order” as something like a Masonic order.
Brad: A fraternal order.
Daymon: A group of guys who collectively are equals. And this, for him, is what brought together heaven and earth, because if you’re in an order of the priesthood, that means you are in the same fraternal group as the angels or as the gods.
Brad: There’s an order of equals, of men who collectively share this power, this community and brotherhood, and it’s an order, the membership of which is comprised of both mortal and immortal beings, so it literally connects the two worlds.
Daymon: But as soon as you sever heaven from earth, mind from body, this notion of an order gets rearranged as a hierarchical order which mirrors a separate, parallel order in a different world. And this order requires a head.
Brad: So now there has to be an individual through whom heaven can be transmitted to earth. Rather than it being this shared collectivity, it’s something that is transmitted through the mind of the prophet, hierarchically downward, eventually into the homes and hearts of individuals, through priesthood channels.
Daymon: So you have really an accidental rereading and revisioning of John Taylor’s doctrinal descriptions, but it’s something that is virtually impossible for most readers to recover. You’d have to do a pretty study of both these linguistic issues plus of loads of historical documents to recover these things, but they’re things which are just seamless now. So what’s going on is a reconstruction backwards of the Correlated Gospel, which is almost impossible to see as different from anything that preceded it. So the Gospel is unchangeable, and its current rendering, as on Lee’s notecards, is the thing that is unchangeable, that always has and always will exist. Correlation performs a kind of colonization of the historical past. Now you can go back and read Brigham Young and learn about family home evening.
Brad: Or find contemporary readings of “order of the priesthood” in the writings of Joseph Smith. J. Nelson-Seawright did a post on this when he first reviewed the Joseph Smith manual. He talked about how a decontextualized portion of a JSJ sermon from Kirtland was positioned within the manual in such a way that it made it seem as if Joseph were himself instituting this notion of priesthood-as-administrative-hierarchy.
Daymon: This is why it’s so important that most of the chapter titles and section titles within the chapters are drawn directly from the Curriculum Planning Worksheet. They are framing devices, explanatory phrases that direct you to read the quotations in a certain way. Lee’s CPW can literally be written into the voice of Joseph Smith.
Brad: So perhaps the largest take away point from all of this, in trying to figure out what Correlation means or does, is that it is really infinitely more than just a committee. It’s more than just a doctrinal or theological regimentation. Typically when we talk about correlated materials, we’re talking about manuals and curricula, perhaps even General Conference talks. But Correlation is so, so much more than that. Here’s an example. Several years ago I participated in the Joseph Smith Summer Seminar at BYU with Richard Bushman and Terryl Givens. We did something remarkably similar to what this manual writing committee did. Basically, we decided that part of our goal for the seminar, in addition to writing and presenting papers, we were going to create what we called a Map of 19th-century Mormon Thought. So we came up with an initial list, just a list of terms, of categories. And then we were going to go to the Journal of Discourses and other important 19th Century sources, and any time we came across something that we found to be particularly rich, we would either append it to an existing category, or else add a new category somewhere on the tree. Maybe that was going to be a sub-category of another category. So we’re like quasi-liberal, relatively intellectual Mormons, who are ostensibly working outside of the surveillance framework of Correlation, and yet what we ended up producing—this like 30-page flowchart of abstract terms and supporting quotations—was as much a Correlated text as anything produced by a committee at the Church Office Building.
Daymon: It’s very difficult to see just how deeply Correlation reconstructed the Mormon. Precisely because they’re dealing with abstract terms that we can recreate individually. What you have is an attempt to transcend history with Correlation. Which, of course, from the very beginning was what Correlation was said to do. But also an attempt to create sameness across the globe, across both time and space. How does this happen? It goes back to the experiences with Native Americans that many of these guys on the original Correlation board had. And by the 1970s they had restructured the Church around surveillable categories. So things which were visible to the logic of Correlation became the ground for ordering the organizational units of the Church as Phase 1, Phase 2, and Phase 3. And the closer you approximate a Correlated entity, something which has recordable public acts such as donations, attendance, things which can be aggregated and turned into numbers, these become ways of…
Brad: Of classifying units within the Church, of classifying spaces in which Mormons congregate.
Daymon: And of ordering them according to their approximation of the ideal Correlated congregation. Phase 1 (Wards) is on target, Phase 2 (branches) is more on the fringe, and Phase 3 (groups) is way out there.
Brad: So you go somewhere out there in the third world, you send missionaries to someplace where there’s never been proselyting, and the first thing they’ll do is organize a unit called a “group.”
Daymon: And the idea is that they will eventually progress, through encountering and taking up Correlated materials, to becoming a Correlated congregation, that properly uses all the manuals and curriculum, the proper phrasings, and if you sat all the Elders in the congregation down, they could come up with the Curriculum Planning Worksheet all by themselves.
Brad: Just by brainstorming. Just by rolling their eyes into the back of their heads and surveilling the contents of their own minds, they could produce Lee’s worksheet.
Daymon: Which makes it into an eternal thing which is everywhere, not dependent upon human history and human contingency.
Brad: But it saturates all of Mormon discourse, not just the mass produced texts that come from the Church Office Building. Sterling McMurrin’s Theological Foundations is in its own way a Correlated text.
Daymon: The Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology is just an extension of the Correlated Gospel. These folks can go back and read philosophical texts and see that the abstract ideas manifested in Whitehead or Kant or Augustine or Plato—to find correlation in their works. Correlation furnishes the keys for self-described liberal or intellectual Mormons to run on their own and to find the truths of the Gospel in supposedly Uncorrelated materials, but what they’re really providing is a lens for seeing the world, and seeing Correlation in it.
Brad: Even ostensible heterodox or rogue Mormon organizations are a part of it. There was an edited volume on Mormon theology produced by Signature Books recently. Signature’s supposed to be basically, like, this anti-Mormon entity, right?
Daymon: Line Upon Line.
Brad: That’s it. And even though you have writers, some of them not particularly friendly to the Church, making claims about Mormon doctrine as undergoing massive change, or whatever, claims that could easily be construed as disruptive to faith, they’re still grounded in a basically orthodox rendering of the Universe, in which everything is presented as an abstract idea or principle.
Daymon: The whole problem you find in that volume is trying to explain why there was such rich theological speculation in the 19th Century but so little of it now, and what’s interesting is the way these authors try to explain that transition. Whereas I ground my analysis in things like language and grammatical categories, syntax and analogic projection, and even politics and social relationship, this volume will explain it as “a lack of faith in the soundness of individual initiative, discussion, and decisions.”
Brad: That’s totally COB-speak.
The concepts embraced by speculative theology are reason, experience, authority, intuition, and imagination. In one way or another these structures and methods are products of the mind and conscience.
Brad: Was that written by Dan Peterson or Dan Vogel?
Daymon: So this is the alignment of the Correlated Church, which really makes something like opposition impossible, because if you are different from the correlated or ideal congregation or Mormon, what you really are is just someone who is not yet fully realized as a Correlated Mormon. You can’t oppose it, you can just be situated along a continuum which will eventually lead you into it. You’re just somewhere along the Phase-1-2-3 gradient.
So, to conclude, what happened with Correlation was the rise of an apparatus to develop a new kind of subjectivity, which could be under the surveillance of this administrative arm.
Brad: Like a new kind of generic Mormon personhood, which individual Mormons are capable, to varying degrees, of stepping into and performing in a manner that is legible to the administrative and oversight organs that we typically associate with Correlation.
Daymon: And by their performance they turn it into a real thing, between them, as if it didn’t come from above but they just discovered in their own mind, in their own personal biography. So Correlation is not just an administrative change, a committee, something that deals formally with manuals.
Brad: It is that, but it’s so much more than that.
Daymon: There certainly is a Correlation Committee, but it does very little today. It does very minor things like fact checking. One committee member crossed out the word “love” when it was applied to the Book of Mormon, because you’re only supposed to love living beings. It might regulate the use of certain stock phrases, but this is all very minor.
Brad: Because, now, Correlation already exists in the minds of originators, in the minds of the people who are producing the materials in the first place.
Daymon: Another way to say this is that what becomes public Mormonism are those things which are correlatable or are already under the productive gaze of this correlation process that goes back, maybe all the way to the Underground.
Brad: It’s really not so much a bureaucratic structure or a committee. It’s not even so much a state of mind. It’s really a set of imaginative and linguistic practices, that are both conditioned and structured through the interactions that rank-and-file Mormons have every day, interactions both inside of and with properties, real and intellectual, that are controlled but a set of concentric corporations known collectively as the LDS Church.
Daymon: And they give you the privilege of going back and reading, say, Plato and restructure his entire arguments around these correlated categories and thus discover for yourself that Plato indeed taught the Eternal and Unchanging Gospel, which in some sense maybe he did, but not necessarily the Gospel of Correlation. My concern with the entire dissertation was to explain how historical processes such as the Underground, or some of these theological changes, and political changes, relate to the ways in which we tell our histories. What I argue ultimately is that it changes the way we approach the texts, all texts. You can get very smart people at the Summer Seminar, and they can go back and read these texts, but read them as Correlated Minds. So history, here, becomes another space for colonization, just like Native America or Latin America. But it’s a very subtle kind of reconstruction, in which we only allow certain things to exist within certain Mormon properties.
Brad: It’s not a violent form of colonization. This isn’t the stuff of Orwell but, rather, of Huxley.
Daymon: It’s almost impossible to resist because you don’t ever confront it, you can’t even see it. It’s the way modern power works. It’s distributed across every point of your interaction, and thus constitutes its own reality, which you could never see, any more than a fish could ever really see water.
Brad: It’s what Foucault calls “capillary power,” power that operates almost independently of any agent because it’s so diffuse.
Daymon: And it doesn’t stop people from doing things. It actually creates them, makes them possible, gives them avenues for interaction. So it provides them scripts, it provides them with social roles, and it provides them with the ability to constitute the truth of not just their religion but their very existence.
Brad: Any parting thoughts before we shut things down here?
Daymon: I think we’ve probably exhausted the patience of all our readers at this point.
Brad: You want to close with a testimony?
Daymon: Maybe this whole thing has been my testimony. I wrote this thing in some sense to try to understand why I was so bored by my current attendance at Church, but yet so profoundly fascinated and engaged by the 19th Century Church. I wasn’t satisfied with this explanation that things just changed because the calendar changed, or that things just got better, or that we don’t need to know about or understand these things. I wanted to explain how abandoning things which were at the time viewed as absolutely essential produced a very different order of things. How seemingly small things like polygamy and consecration, or even concerns about language—the capacity to make and keep oaths—can lead to major shifts. I never planned to end up with Correlation by starting with the Underground, but it turned out to be not only a kind of perverse history, but really made a lot of sense in terms of my own personal experience.
Brad: And perhaps as the greatest manifestation of all of the power of Correlation over individuals, you are of course still being bored at your weekly Church meetings along with the rest of us.
Daymon: But I hope I just observe the boredom now, rather than create it.